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For second year, Homegrown Organic Farms’ grapes won’t start until late July

In a normal year, Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA, will begin its organic table grape program around mid-July with production out of the Delano and Richgrove areas in the southern San Joaquin Valley.

But the 2010 growing season, like the one the year before, has not been normal. The weather has been unusually cool and wet, and grapes, like just about every other commodity in the valley, are running behind schedule this year — again — as they did last year.

Being grown organically, Homegrown’s grapes tend not to be as early as some conventional grapes of the same varieties grown in the same districts. Rather than push maturity, Homegrown’s organic growers allow the grapes to develop naturally, according to Scott Mabs, director of marketing.

“Realistically, we are not going to start until probably right at the end of July,” Mr. Mabs told The Produce News June 7. “I am expecting it to be at least 10 days late.”

The lateness is “definitely going to have an effect on the overall grape program,” not just for Homegrown but industrywide, he said.

The company’s first grapes of the season will be Flame seedless. Those will be followed shortly by Thompsons, Mr. Mabs said. “Then we will be moving into our Chilean red seedless, and then into Crimson.”

Other than being late, it should be a nice crop, he said. “We didn’t have any frost that seriously damaged anything.” But “I think we are all just sitting here wondering how the plants are going to react to this really strange weather that we are having, and I don’t have an answer. We’ll wait and see. It is too early to tell yet.”

There is no change in the company’s grape acreage this year, he said.

What will be new in the program this year is that “we are going to be offering a new pack style,” Mr. Mabs said. The company this summer will be offering grapes to retailers in two types of clamshell consumer packs. One will be a one-pound clamshell; the other will be “a one-and-a-half-pound red-and-green duet.” Both will carry the “Homegrown” label. “I’m working on the labels now,” he said.